Omicron not as prevalent as first thought but remains dominant variant: CDC

US officials recommend shorter COVID-19 isolation, quarantine

Omicron may not be as prevalent as first thought, but it does remain the dominant variant in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Omicron may not be as prevalent as first thought, but it does remain the dominant variant in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC said its new estimate is that omicron accounted for nearly 60% of new cases in the U.S. last week — less than the over 70% first thought. Delta made up the rest.

But the highly contagious omicron variant has still sent infections soaring. According to the Washington Post, as of Tuesday afternoon, the seven-day average of new daily cases in the U.S. was 253,245, surpassing the previous high of 248,209 cases on Jan. 12.

Over the Christmas holiday weekend, Florida reported 39,000 new cases. According to CDC data, Florida reported 29,059 new cases on Monday, and the seven-day average of daily cases in Florida was 25,655 — an all-time high.

Now, hospitalizations are once again on the rise in Northeast Florida.

As of Tuesday, there were 24 COVID-19 patients at Baptist Health’s five hospitals. Ascension St. Vincent’s had 19 COVID-19 patients, and UF Health Jacksonville had 27 COVID-19 patients — that number increasing from 16 in two days.

As the highly contagious omicron variant has sent infections soaring, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Northeast Florida are once again on the rise.

For the second day in a row, there was a long line at the COVID-19 testing site at the former Kmart in Neptune Beach. The site announced Tuesday morning that it was temporarily closing before it even opened due to the number of people already in line.

UF Health Jacksonville director of infectious disease Chad Neilsen told News4JAX on Tuesday that case numbers are going to grow.

“I would anticipate we’re going to see climbing cases, as well as hospital admissions, this week as people are starting to return to their normal lives and realizing they’re sick,” Neilsen said.

LIST: COVID-19 testing sites in Northeast Florida

Meanwhile, the CDC on Monday updated its guidance for isolation and quarantine, with omicron at top of mind.

The isolation rules are for people who are infected. They are the same for people who are unvaccinated, partly vaccinated, fully vaccinated or boosted.

They say:

  • The clock starts the day you test positive.
  • An infected person should go into isolation for five days, instead of the previously recommended 10.
  • At the end of five days, if you have no symptoms, you can return to normal activities but must wear a mask everywhere — even at home around others — for at least five more days.
  • If you still have symptoms after isolating for five days, stay home until you feel better and then start your five days of wearing a mask at all times.

“If you are asymptomatic and you’re infected, we want to get people back to the jobs, particularly those with essential jobs to keep our society running smoothly,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Other experts questioned why the guidelines let people leave isolation without testing. Some frontline workers and the flight attendant union have also criticized the move.

“How they are going to implement this to make sure that it is only for people who are asymptomatic, who are coming back to work so that people are not forced to come back to work when they’re still sick,” said Association of Flight Attendants International President Sara Nelson.

But Neilsen said there is medical research behind the rules.

“That’s what they found, that really most people are over omicron if they are vaccinated and boosted by day five, and so this is based in science,” Neilsen said. “The CDC doesn’t necessarily have any kind of hand in the guidelines that we as a hospital or other employers have in terms of returning people to work, so when the public sees these new guidelines, it’s the CDC adjusting to what the latest science says.”

The quarantine rules are for people who were in close contact with an infected person but not infected themselves.

For quarantine, the clock starts the day someone is alerted they may have been exposed to the virus.

Previously, the CDC said people who were not fully vaccinated and who came in close contact with an infected person should stay home for at least 10 days.

Now the agency is saying only people who got booster shots can skip quarantine if they wear masks in all settings for at least 10 days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About the Author:

Lauren Verno anchors the 9 a.m. hour of The Morning Show and is the consumer investigative reporter weekday afternoons.